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G-8 Precipice - Itís a different world.
National Review Online ^ | June 08, 2007 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 06/08/2007 11:27:47 PM PDT by neverdem

G-8 Precipice
It’s a different world.

By Victor Davis Hanson

The fitting geological metaphor for the so-called G-8 meeting in Germany is not a summit, but a precipice — as the world’s leaders scramble around to grab something before one of them falls into the abyss.

The old postwar order is tottering on the brink of Islamism, oil-price hikes, energy shortages, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Russian belligerency, global-warming concern and hysteria, and war.

Europe is at the edge of the chasm, despite its strong euro and strengthening economy. Once convinced that they would serve as a kinder, gentler Western answer to the United States, Europeans would offer humanity a sort of soft-power colossus that would check George Bush’s “dead-or-alive,” “smoke-‘em-out” America. They would fix through good works what we had botched. That welcomed alternative seemed attractive to many as we slogged it out in Iraq, and the “I told you so” Europeans felt justified that military power really does cause far more problems than it solves.

But now suddenly regimes of a less liberal sort are calling the EU’s bluff — and Europe knows it. Historians looking back at Europe in 2007 will see a sort of summer of 1914 all over again: Never had things gone better just as they are about to become never so bad.

One of the great transmogrifications of our era has been the Russian 20-year metamorphosis from crumbling Soviet totalitarian into a chaotic oligarchy into a confident neo-czarist petro-power.

Or was it ever really that much of a transformation in attitude at all? Now emboldened by $60-plus-barrel oil instead of the old Red Army, Russia suddenly bullies like the old Soviet Union without all the hassles of multiethnic subjects and the burdens of empire. 

Mad at Estonia? Wage an Internet war against the tiny democracy.

Mad that a cobbled-together missile-defense system might save the West from an errant Iranian nuke or two? Boast that you could nuke it into smithereens — and maybe a European capital in the bargain.

Mad at dissidents abroad? Kill ’em.

Mad at foreign oil companies in Russia? Squeeze them until they leave.

Mad at sermons about human rights? Threaten to cut off half of Europe’s natural gas.

The result is that a continent of well over 400 million, with the world’s largest economy — but without many energy supplies and less of a military — is terrified of a nuclear, oil-rich bully shrinking to less than 150 million. Russia, remember, like the jihadists, hates Europe’s guts. And it wants payback for the humiliating 1990s.

A rich, large, and influential European continent won’t rearm given its own pacifism, and demographic, entitlement, and immigration crises. Fine. But consistent with its mission of global secular proselytizing, it will continue to sermonize.

Bad idea. That well-meaning impotence sadly will win it the contempt always shown the self-righteous and sanctimonious weakling — especially in the case of nearby Russia hurt by lost power, surprised by newfound wealth, and eager to expose the parading European emperor as buck naked. Remember the landmark moment when Mr. Putin advised a French journalist harping over Chechnya (but who now remembers Chechnya?) to consider a Russian form of extreme circumcision.

Perhaps, individually and collectively European nations will cut their own oil and defense deals with nearby Russia — sort of doing at the national level what the corrupt former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder did at the personal to prostitute himself to the Soviet gas conglomerate.

Or consider the other response — blame the Americans for not “reaching out” after the crack-up of the Soviet Union, and instead, through NATO expansion and missile defense, gratuitously jabbing at an otherwise kinder and gentler new Russia. Apparently in some corners, Bush & Co. caused a justifiably hurt Mr. Putin to destabilize Estonia or to muzzle (and worse) its own dissidents or to threaten Europe with nukes.

The American public may not be so dense about all this as they think in Europe. Four years of cheap anti-Americanism have eroded the old popular support for NATO and most everything else with Europe. For good or bad, there will be no more interventions to save Europe’s hide like the Balkans campaign. This is the new unspoken truth, and in some small way also explains the new appearance of more reasonable leaders in France and Germany.

Indeed, in the future Europeans will talk more about the transatlantic alliance than we do who are exhausted with it. The task of a Merkel or Sarkozy will not to be to outdo each other in the old preaching to the United States about unilateralism and preemption, but to coax us to keep playing the powerful eccentric ally when Iran, or al Qaeda, or Russia, or China begins to push real hard.

Some saw the two billion in India and China as welcome rising counterweights to the hyperpower America. But while even George Bush reconsiders global warming, both nations think that global environmentalism is an absurd blockage to their own industrialization. The only mystery is which country will cut the best deals with the worst oil regimes in securing their future Westernization as they try to redefine themselves quite differently from the old West.

As the pet-food scandal reminds us, China is still a criminal state beneath its shiny Westernized veneer of big money — and one never knows when what’s beneath will poke through, whether that means your puppy conked on imported Chinese-food ingredients or one morning missiles over Taiwan.

Bush takes the lead on Darfur, China takes the lead in buying the murderous regime’s oil. Its policy is as cutthroat as Russia — but with seven times the population and enough fumes of the old Maoism still to intoxicate the Left. It might be smart to put a play on in London trashing the United States or to write yet another impenetrable op-ed in Le Monde about American evil, but watch for a return of Dark Age morality should Communist China or the new Czarist Russia or an oil-fed nuclear Middle East begin to adjudicate the global commercial, political, or financial order.

If ragtag jihadists can silence Europe’s self-styled courageous intelligentsia over a few cartoons or an opera, imagine what a nuclear China will soon do. When Bush spends billions on AIDS in Africa, asks the EU3 and the U.N. to deal with Iran, and relents on global warming, it earns him as much support from Europeans as generous federal spending, prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind, and immigration reform did at home from liberals.

Why? Because most of the anger and outrage is not over substance so much as a sense of lost power — the Europeans of their lost world before 1939, the American Left of the halcyon days of the 1960s. Just as both Europeans and liberals here at home despise George Bush’s not so much for what he does as for what they allege he represents, so too when he’s gone they really won’t suddenly expect the United Nations to deal with Mr. Ahmadinejad or Darfur, or bin Laden to grow scared that we can now “turn our eye” to Afghanistan after fleeing Iraq, or Mr. Putin to grow cooperative once we relent on missile defense. In truth, only a militarily strong, traditional, and capitalist United States can keep its critics, here and abroad, safe and well off enough to allow them their rage over knowing that the utopian world they prefer won’t work.

Meanwhile, the oil-rich Arab world thought it wise to cheer when jihadists killed Americans in Iraq, and found delight in fanning the flames of Islamism at a safe distance. But all they are earning is not American “colonialism” — after 9/11 and a zillion frames of someone named Mohammed blowing up something, Americans apparently want nothing more than to smile and see Middle Easterners go their own way — but a nuclear Iran, feasting on the rump of oil-rich Iraq as the first course to the full meal to come on the Gulf.

So the world is at the edge, as the Bush presidency winds down, new directions are promised in Europe, old habits die hard in China and Russia — and all the while the Middle East gets more petromoney and crazier for it.

Here at home, if we keep paying out petrobribes to unsavory nations, piling up debt to China and Japan, run serial deficits, lose Iraq, and accept stalemate in Afghanistan, surge to 20 million or so illegal immigrants, and suffer another 9/11 attack, then expect the world to become a far more dangerous place, as a poorer, more isolationist America retreats inside an ever thinner, more fragile shell. 

In contrast, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, stop the nuclearization of Iran, cut radically back on imported oil, close the southern border, and end the financial hemorrhaging, and the United States will do just fine, to the great benefit of the world at large.

But for now hold on, as the Russians get angrier, the jihadists more desperate, Mr. Ahmadinejad closer to Armaggedon, the Chinese more eager to match new power with now old money, Europe more terrified — and the United States ever more baffled by it all.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Germany; Politics/Elections; Russia; United Kingdom; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: g8; g8meeting; g8summit; russia; vdh; victordavishanson

1 posted on 06/08/2007 11:27:48 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: Tolik


2 posted on 06/08/2007 11:30:35 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
“In contrast, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, stop the nuclearization of Iran, cut radically back on imported oil, close the southern border, and end the financial hemorrhaging, and the United States will do just fine, to the great benefit of the world at large. “

I wish we had a majority of politicians willing to do this.

3 posted on 06/08/2007 11:46:32 PM PDT by BBell
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To: neverdem
(May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)

That's always been one of my favorites, thanks

4 posted on 06/09/2007 3:16:39 AM PDT by ThreePuttinDude ()... Hey Lindsay ...I'm one of the Loud ones...and pretty proud of it....()
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To: neverdem

—great piece by VDH-—better repost it when everybody is awake-—

5 posted on 06/09/2007 4:34:55 AM PDT by rellimpank (-don't believe anything the MSM states about firearms or explosives--NRA Benefactor)
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To: neverdem
Baffled is right. Victor's correct; the world is at the edge.

It's nobody's fault. It's under nobody's control. It's the Information Age. Suddenly the world is small. We rub shoulders every day with Nigerians, Chinese, and Indonesians. Everyone is only an email or a phone call away. We feel the pressures. We cannot avoid cultural overlap.

The best we can do is (1) try to control our political and economic leaders and make them serve our best interests and (2) try to figure out the best and safest place, literally and figuratively, for ourselves and our families to be in this increasingly dangerous world.

And most of all--fight the destruction of our nation from within. Note tagline.

6 posted on 06/09/2007 5:24:07 AM PDT by Savage Beast (A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.~Durant)
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To: Savage Beast

I believe you’re right about the upheaval’s source—I’m a big fan of The Third Wave by Toeffler (?)—a book I read after hearing Newt Gingrich talk about it on Firing Line over 10 years ago—a great overview of how the world undergoes transformations.

7 posted on 06/09/2007 8:55:39 AM PDT by foreshadowed at waco
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To: neverdem; Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; Alouette; ...

    Victor Davis Hanson Ping ! 

       Let me know if you want in or out.

Links:    FR Index of his articles:
                His website:
                NRO archive:

8 posted on 06/12/2007 10:08:29 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: neverdem

...”and the United States will do just fine,”...

Sorry, I don’t think so. Until we return to “one nation, under God,”, we will be in turmoil.

9 posted on 06/12/2007 10:22:48 AM PDT by wizr (Freedom ain't free.. Common sense ain't common,. Read Jeremiah, Chapters 18 & 19)
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To: neverdem

Most historians that are honest with themselves see that we are now living in 1937 or 1914. History does indeed repeat itself. And to be brutally honest, wars have a way of sorting it all out. Nobody ever wants one, but in truth, we can learn the lessons of history apparently no other way than to have a bunch of small ones and a couple of large ones every century.

Another big one is coming IMO, and maybe it will be Europe as I think, or maybe it will be the Middle East (Israel vs. ?), I don’t really know, but it is just around the corner.

The best we can do at this point is to pray, and keep our powder dry.

10 posted on 06/12/2007 10:58:49 AM PDT by alarm rider (Why should I not vote my conscience?)
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To: neverdem
An excellent article, and thanks for posting. A full answer to this set of observations would end up book-length and I doubt anyone would read it, but here are some individual comments.

One characteristic of a Golden Age is that few of its inhabitants recognize that they are in it; that it appears "Golden" only by contrast to the times that succeed. I have suggested elsewhere that the time between the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of militant Islam in Europe might be considered such an age, and that the social critics that have been so insistent during that period that the last barrier between the disagreeable status quo and their imagined socialist utopia is a belligerent and out-of-control United States may end up regretting what they wished for.

There are, to be sure, certain conservative utopianists who bitterly regret a time that never really was. But that does not make Golden Ages entirely illusory, nor does it make the loss any less bitter when they are left behind.

The Left in the United States will be the very last to come around to this point of view precisely because it is the most insulated from its visible consequences. If the upshot of resistance to an imaginary American "tyranny" in Europe is a genuine Islamic one coupled with external threats from a renascent Russia and China, then the imaginary future utopia begins most to resemble the Bad Old Days in fact. Those most capable of maintaining that fond imagination will be last to see this, and that is the situation with the American Left, IMHO.

It is they, however, who remain influential over policies that will end up in disengaging the United States from pursuit of "unilateral" activities that are, at the least, ongoing, in favor of collective security activities under NATO and the UN that exist only in the imagination. A comparison of Iraq with Darfur is instructive here, as is the contrast between the UN and U.S. approaches to either one. And again, it is the domestic Left that will be most insulated from the negative results and most capable of deflecting the ensuing blame.

I'm not sure it's a problem in search of a solution, actually, more one of those historic pendula that tends to swat people going by. The generation that learned the Holocaust "never again" lesson, for example, turned out not to be the one that needed it - that generation seems about to re-learn it. The same applies for the one that learned that Hitlers are not to be tolerated. In each of these, as in the one living through the Athenian or the Roman or the British Golden Ages, there is a large component of the population with an attractive alternate explanation for the hard-learned lessons that is easier, more attractive, less demanding. And fatal.

11 posted on 06/12/2007 1:53:12 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: alarm rider

Well, we can’t say that we didn’t have our own Cassandra to warn us in very clear terms what we’re getting ourselves into.

12 posted on 06/12/2007 2:11:48 PM PDT by absalom01 (The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.)
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To: neverdem

Bumping. One of VDH’s better columns, of late.

13 posted on 06/12/2007 5:44:38 PM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: Billthedrill

Excellent points!

14 posted on 06/12/2007 6:45:32 PM PDT by maica (America will be a hyperpower that's all hype and no power -- if we do not prevail in Iraq)
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